As reported by nj.com, under pressure to regain control of the issues in Trenton, Democratic sources said Tuesday that legislators plan to introduce their own budget next week that will include money for police departments and property tax relief for the elderly.
The plan to reshape Governor Chris Christie’s $29.6 billion budget is emerging with time running out before the June 30 deadline and as Democratic leaders break from rank-and-file members on a plan to overhaul benefits for public employees. The legislation sharply raises the cost to employees for health and pension benefits, and will deliver a political victory for Governor Christie. The legislation was approved by the Senate on Monday and awaits a final Assembly vote Thursday.
Looking toward passage of the budget, which was delayed as lawmakers fought over the benefits plan, Democrats will propose reviving a program cut by Christie last year that provides property tax relief to residents 65 and older who earn less than $80,000 a year, the sources said. They also plan to seek financial relief for police departments stung by layoffs while experiencing an increase in crime, like Newark. The amount to be allocated is still under discussion. “That is a priority for Democrats,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, adding that the money would go to departments “where there have been real challenges.”
When asked whether Democrats planned to introduce their own budget or nibble around the edges of Christie’s. Oliver said, “I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag.”
State Sen. Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Democrats were “developing a list of priorities” and that his committee would consider the “total package” on Monday. The Assembly may hear the bill on the same day.
A spokesman for the governor, Kevin Roberts, said Christie has fulfilled his obligation by submitting a balanced budget and will review the budget when lawmakers sent it to him for his signature. Christie had pledged to triple property tax rebates for residents already receiving them if lawmakers overhauled health and pension benefits. It was not clear whether the Democrat proposal takes into account the governor’s commitment.